Flash Gun - Ender's Game

by GlitchTech, published

Flash Gun - Ender's Game by GlitchTech Aug 29, 2014


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My wife is a long-time fan of Ender’s Game, so when the movie came out she decided to make a Dragon Army Flash Suit. Naturally, this meant she needed a gun to go with it, which is where I came in. Now you can light up the interstellar sky with your very own Flash Gun prop replica.

I designed the gun in SketchUp and printed the original on a MakerBot Replicator Dualstrusion. I started out by tracing a side view picture from the movie of the gun. I took this 2D image and started adding depth and layering pieces until I had a solid block model. I took dimensions from the block model and visited SparkFun and adafruit to determine what electronics to use with the final piece.

Researching parts helped me to determine that conventional batteries would not provide the power I needed in the space I had for any reasonable time period. It was time to build my first piece with a rechargeable LiPo battery. With this knowledge, I selected the remainder of the electronics I would need: two small LED rings, a single LED, several resistors and switches, a tiny arduino, and the power board.

I went back to the 3D model to design in hollow spaces and access points for the electronics. With the lessons I learned from my Chitauri Scepter build, I quickly designed in spaces for all the components. I designed in a removable butt on the handle to allow quick and easy access to the piece's main power switch and recharging port. It took many iterations in SketchUp to get all the parts fitting in such a small space with room for wires to run and bend. The hardest part was ensuring the arduino had enough room for the connections.

With the initial design completed, it was time to print the piece. The majority of the gun was printed from ABS, with the light-up spinner rings in translucent blue PLA, and the grip in Ninjaflex. I had printed with ABS and PLA before so I knew what to expect there. The Ninaflex was new but printed very easily.

Thanks to careful designs (and redesigns), precise measurements, and generous spacing on the electronics, the first test print fit well and there were few issues. Despite my careful work, the internal space for the arduino and wires was still too small. I had to increase the depth of the chamber. This were easily solved in the first piece with careful application of a dremel. The changes were saved in the 3D model.

I designed the circuitry for the piece in EagleCAD so I had a good idea of the circuit design. I used some simple test code on the arduino and built the circuit on a breadboard. With a few iterations, I had what I considered the best layout for the wires and connection points. I mimicked a bit of adafruit's NeoPixel code to give the side spinners their trailing glow effect. I made sure to leave the intensity and speed settings as variables so I could quickly adjust them and get the effect just right. Several hours later, I had the LED patterns working perfectly as well.

The final product measures approximately 9.5” long, 6” tall, and 1.5” thick. It includes space for LEDs for the “spinner” rings on either side and the “emitter” at the end of the barrel (see instructions for the exact products used).

I must have gotten something right, because one of the VFX artists who worked on the movie saw this Thingiverse posting and commissioned me to make one. Once he received it, he sent me the following message: “Having held the real thing, I can say that these feel and look extremely close to the original prop. The coating and weight is obviously a little different, but you really nailed the size and proportions of all of the parts, along with the spin up feeling of the LEDs. I can't believe this came out of a 3D printer.”

Bonus: He was able to get it signed by about 40 of the VFX crew, in addition to Gavin Hood, the film’s director. Pretty sure my wife’s heart stopped for a few moments when she found out!

Now for the technical stuff:

Wiring diagram: https://bitbucket.org/GlitchTechScience/enders-game-flash-gun/src/25bb3ddf20bac30bc0c1b67eef6d2fe65bd5db1d/Schematic.png?at=master

Battery casing and wiring setup: https://www.dropbox.com/s/x1u84sztj367suy/2014-06-10%2020.46.50.jpg?dl=0

Arduino code: https://bitbucket.org/GlitchTechScience/enders-game-flash-gun

Printable display stand: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:797703

The model has been updated to better accommodate wiring. The new models are tagged v2.


Don't want to build one yourself? You can buy one at Barefootsewing.com.


The control code and wiring diagram for the Flash Gun can be found on their BitBucket Page.
The following are suggested electronics. Some items, like the single LED and resistors, can be swapped out as long as you use suitable replacement items.

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very cool I want one.

I hope you can also print/'use' this without the LEDs right? I just want the prop... Is there any like tutorial as to how you fit all the parts together?

And, how much does this weigh in grams? I plan to print it tomorrow so please reply asap :)

This can be built without LEDs. There will be one hole in the front but that is the only exposed LED. Others are hidden behind translucent PLA.

I do not have a tutorial for the construction but the pieces only fit together one way. The .skp file (SketchUP) contains the full model in component pieces. You can pull that model apart to determine what goes where if you are confused about anything.

Just under 300g.

Okay thanks for speedy comment, and, wow, that's pretty heavy... I have to pay 20 cents per gram at my local 3d printer (sounds weird) it's a public one... So that'd be 60€ if I wanna print that...

You might be able to reduce the mass of the object by messing with printer settings (less infill, no raft, etc).

Ok I think I'm getting there. I changed my wiring and now if I connect an LED to the EN and GND port I can get a signal but nothing when I connect from VCC and GND and when I connect coming out of the switch I get nothing. I think I might be having problems getting power to the arduino. The switch works... I think. When I'm connected to the EN and GND I can toggle the switch and the signal goes on and off but that's about it. What am I doing wrong? I have the switch connected to EN and GND and VCC and GND running out to the arduino.

Thanks, I did use the wiring diagram but I'm not sure how that applies to the ports on the arduino and is SW1 the switch on the battery pack? I found some other pictures online using the 6, 8, and 9 data ports on the arduino but for some reason mine is doing nothing. My latest wiring scheme utilized the en port on the sparkfun board but when I volt test the VCC port I don't get anything. I'm not sure if that's the problem or not.

Okay. I pulled out my battery system and took a picture. Maybe this will help a little.


Black and Red run to ground and v-in on the arduino. White/Green and Green run to a switch on the battery sled. This is the main power switch; nothing can run when this is on.

Unfortunately I cannot find a decent picture of the complete wiring of the rest of the circuit.

The LED rings data line connects to pin 12. Connect ground and power of the rings to GND and VCC on the arduino.

The momentary switch (SW1) under the thumb connects to pin 7 on one end. This end should also run through a 10Kohm resistor and connect to ground (so a loop is formed through the resistor from pin 7 to ground). The other end of the switch connects to VCC.

The beam LED (single) connects to pin 9 through a resistor (adjust the resistance to work with your LED and a 5v source). The other end of the resistor connects to GND on the arduino.

what would happen if i wired the EN to the switch

Well I think I'm almost there, thanks for all of the help. Turns out my sparkfun board was fried. I bypassed it and I can get everything to light up. My spinners are red though. If I leave out the single LED the spinners are bright and normal. Any suggestions?

Red indicates that there is not enough power in the system. How's your battery charge? And are the spinners and single LED in a parallel circuit (meaning each connects to power separately)?

power for the spinners comes from the SW1 which is connected to the VCC port on the arduino and the single LED is port 9. Do I need to run an additional power line to each individual spinner? I've got it spliced right now from the SW1 to both.

I uploaded a new image to the thing, it is the last one. This url should work too: http://thingiverse-production-new.s3.amazonaws.com/renders/29/01/e6/2f/67/2015-07-28-13.12_display_large.jpg

This is my original circuit diagram, which I added colors to to help define the paths. Each color/color pattern is a grouping of wires. Does that help?

Awesome that was it. Thanks so much for your help. This is so cool

I'm almost done building mine but am having some trouble with the wiring. Can someone upload some pictures of the wiring of the batter to the switch to the arduino?

A wiring diagram is available at https://bitbucket.org/GlitchTechScience/enders-game-flash-gun/src/25bb3ddf20bac30bc0c1b67eef6d2fe65bd5db1d/Schematic.png?at=master

If you have trouble with that, let me know. I'll see if I can describe it a bit more. Unfortunately I do not have any models in a stage for wiring otherwise I'd take some pictures.

Thank you SO MUCH! This is awesome.

OMG Reading the book. Awsome


Well, my printing is underway, and I have a question. In the 7th picture, where you are holding the piece in your hand, it looks like that is enameled copper wire wrapped around a rod. Is that the case? Can you please tell me which part that is?


That is. The part is called "Focus Rail - Upper - Metal" (A and B). The rod was a metal one from the hardware store (my printing kept failing when I tried to design/print a plastic one). I don't remember the size of the metal rod I used for it; it was a pick and fit from the hardware store. The rod has 18-20ga wire wrapped around it.

Can you give the code to the ardiuno?

Will you post a picture or video on how the Flash Gun? I am trying to create this design, but I am mystified on how all the parts go together AND fits the electronics.

I see if I have the progress images to pull something together.

Good news. I'm finally close to getting a video done. I got a commission to make another Flash Gun so I'll post it when it is done. Sorry about the extremely long wait.

What is the scale for the flash gun?

It is approximately 9.5" long, 6" tall, and 1.25" thick. Fits well in my hand.

Friend, this is an awesome gun. Will be my next project. I just happened to stumble across it.

Just a head's up that you are not getting hits, because if you do a search on "Ender's Game" Thingiverse comes up with zero results. But if you search "Ender Game" you do get listed.

Seems like they need to fix their search, as it probably has the apostrophe flipped.

Looking forward to this build

I'm glad to hear excitement about the model :)

As to the search trouble, I'll see about adding some more tags with variations of Ender's Game to get past that annoyance.